Panic and disunion

More insurrection panic in the Semi-Weekly Mississippian (Jackson, MS) of Sep. 21, 1860:

A Clergyman of the Methodist persuasion writes the following, among other things, to the Journal of Commerce, from Vicksburg:

Our papers are teeming with accounts of the havoc of another John Brown raid on the border counties of Texas. Abolitionists have been there in the character of Methodist Preachers, Teachers, &c., and instigated a general insurrection among several hundred negroes They had planned matters for a most bloody and fatal catastrophe. Firearms of all sorts; arsenic, to be put in wells for poisoning the people, and means for setting fire to the whole town at once, were detected, but not until five towns had been burned, and great mischief done. One woman has been hung for distributing arsenic, to be put in cisterns and wells. And one or two preachers have been hung for aiding and inciting to revolt.

If things go on at this rate, a man suspected of anti-slavery proclivities will be hung or shot like a dog; a fate they court, it would seem. Dissolution of the Union is inevitable, with abolitionism in the ascendant, at Washington. Here we are trying to lead the negroes to Christ and Heaven, while those incendiaries lead them to the gallows.

The following day, the Leavenworth Daily Times is skeptical:

The Texas Disturbance.

It will probably be ascertained—as soon as the object which the alarmists hope to attain, is either secured or effectually prevented—that the recent extraordinary excitement and attendant horrors in Texas, were founded upon nothing more tangible than the fears which must ever beset those who hold their fellow men in servile bondage. The New Orleans Picayune already reveals to the utter baselessness of the alarming reports which have been spread so industriously.

“The investigations which have been prosecuted in the disturbed districts of Texas have not developed, with any degree of distinctness, the existence of any other plot for ruin than what a few desperate characters, without connection with or hope of help from any other quarter, might have formed. In some cases the negro population have been demoralized evidently by the insidious promises of those white men, and the work of ruin wrought has doubtless been mainly their work. But not half of what has been confessed seems to be borne out by later facts. The strychnine said to have been discovered in the hands of negroes turns out to be very harmless, having no affinity to the deadly poison, which it was supposed to be. The wells thought to have been poisoned, late accounts declare to be untainted with any deleterious substance.

Texas, like all other frontier States, has been the point where desperate men have congregated, and her whole history is full of violence and outrage inflicted by the foes of society. Aroused by the present danger, the citizens have now taken the most effectual means to bring such offenders to justice, and to break up all combinations for their protection.”

So the New Orleans Picayune thinks the “most effectual means” is to hang a few random people on vague suspicions. Sends a message, I guess. I’m trying to understand and empathize with the people who were so terrified of a slave insurrection that they resorted to these actions, and ultimately tried to dissolve the union in order to protect slavery. It’s not easy to put myself in their place — certainly it’s hard to see slavery as “leading the negroes to Christ”.

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